TJ Jones’ first battle was with his weight ahead of Bellator 221, where he takes on former WWE Superstar Jack Swagger (Jake Hager).
Chicago, IL — TJ Jones hasn’t exactly won the jackpot, but he is about to cash in thanks to Jake Hager, a.k.a. Jack Swagger. The pair fight at Bellator 221 on Saturday in Chicago, and Jones gets a chance to derail the ex-WWE star.
The Jack Swagger experience is something like a bizarre lottery. When Scott Coker signed the former WWE superstar, he no doubt was hoping to find similar success to what Strikeforce and Bellator MMA had with fellow pro wrestling champ Bobby Lashley. Lashley owns a respectable 15-2 record in mixed martial arts, and was a big draw for Bellator prior to returning to his old WWE stomping grounds.
Swagger, or Hager if you prefer, fills that void. But Swagger, a decorated collegiate wrestler, was getting a late start in the fight game. He was 36 when he made his debut, and enters his sophomore outing at 37. Finding suitable opponents for an athlete with almost zero real fight experience has been an interesting process for Bellator.
At Bellator LA in his debut, Swagger got JW Kiser, a man with more underground fights than professional showings. TJ Jones is the man tasked with stopping Swagger at Bellator 221, and the meat plant worker has certainly put the effort in.
After all, he’s shed over sixty pounds since taking the fight.
“I feel great,” Jones told Cageside Press during Fight Week. “When I took the fight, I was 329 pounds. I took it in February. So a lot of this camp has just been hard cardio, a lot of running, getting in the gym, hitting the bag, sparring. Just the typical stuff to get ready for a fight.”
Months later, he’s now “266 exactly. I’m right on weight.”
“I had to cut a little bit,” he admitted, but that is just “doing what you gotta do as a professional.”
For those not familiar with Jones’s record, and that’s likely most MMA fans, he’s 1-1 as a pro, having last fought at RCWC: Halloween Brawl On Boot Hill in 2017. He picked up a submission win that night.
That’s not the full extent of his experience, Jones explained. “Unfortunately, some of it’s not on my record for whatever reason,” he said. “I think I have close to 24 fights. A lot of them are amateur MMA fights in the Springfield, Missouri area. I won a couple of the regional titles. As far as professional, I have about 12 professional boxing fights, then I think two MMA fights. So 15 pro fights.” Or thereabouts.
The plan in the Swagger fight is to keep it standing, said Jones. “Absolutely. I’m not a big fan of jiu-jitsu.” Yet he hasn’t been working on take down defense, he claimed. Instead, said Jones, “I’ve been working on angles.”
“We’re going to find out what his chin knows about wrestling. I don’t think his chin knows sh*t about wrestling.” Then, excusing his language (you can tell Jones is new to this whole Fight Week thing), he reiterated that “I don’t think his chin knows anything about wrestling. So when I put my glove through his chin, we’re going to see how he fares.”